Gas Fireplace Not Turning On
Recently I published the article “Gas Fireplace Won’t Stay Lit”. In that article I addressed a common issue found in gas fireplace ignition systems and how to fix it yourself. However, a gas fireplace not turning on isn’t always because of an ignition system issue. In this article I’ll cover some other reasons your gas fireplace isn’t turning on or keeps going out.
The Most Common Reasons Your Gas Fireplace is Not Turning On
- Blocked or Closed Vent System
- Bad Fireplace Blower Motor
- Gas Valve Failure or Malfunction
- Electrical Issues
- Dead Remote-Control Batteries
- Fuel Delivery Issues
- Safety Device Preventing Operation
- Faulty Ignition System
In our Gas Fireplace Won’t Stay Lit article I focused on a faulty ignition system as it’s a common failure. However, all the possible causes for a gas fireplace not turning on listed above are common as well. The Fire Place by Magic Touch (a division of Magic Touch Mechanical) has offered fireplace repair near Phoenix for 27-years. It’s fair to say we’ve repaired thousands of gas fireplaces throughout Arizona and seen all the common reasons listed above hundreds of times.
I thought it would be helpful to our readers if I broke them down one by one with an explanation.
Blocked or Closed Vent System
There are 4 types of gas fireplace venting systems. Two of the more common gas fireplaces vent types are direct vent and natural draft aka B-vent. A blockage in either of these gas fireplace vents could be the reason for a gas fireplace not turning on.
- Direct Vent Fireplace – a direct vent fireplace uses two pipes. One pipe draws in fresh outside air for combustion. The other pipe exhausts the harmful gases remaining after combustion. If either of these pipes is blocked or restricted, your gas fireplace will not turn on.
Over the years we’ve seen wasp nests, honeycombs, and other flying insect nests creating a blockage in direct vent fireplaces. Birds also like to build nests in vent pipes and chimneys that are missing bird screens.
- Natural Draft / B-Vent Fireplace – it’s rare to find a damper in a direct vent fireplace, but we see them often in B-Vent fireplaces in Phoenix and nearby cities. Many local codes no longer allow dampers in gas fireplaces or require a clamping device blocking them from being closed. A closed damper could also be the reason for your gas fireplace not turning on.
Separation or Disconnected Vent
Recently we encountered a very unusual situation with a gas fireplace not turning on in a Gilbert, AZ home. The fireplace had 2 issues preventing it from staying lit. The first issue was obvious immediately and could be tested using an electrical meter. The 2nd reason was very unusual and took several hours, a borescope camera, and many years of experience to uncover.
I’ll spare you every detail as to how we discovered the cause of this gas fireplace not turning on and get right to the unusual diagnosis.
The homeowners were experiencing large cracks in the wall the fireplace was in. A home inspection had previously determined it was the home “settling.” They had the cracks repaired previously only to appear again a few months later. What we discovered after using a borescope camera (snake camera) in the venting was; the settling caused the venting to separate. This is a rare situation. However, it demonstrates there are also uncommon issues that can result in a gas fireplace not turning on.
Is a Bad Motor to Blame for Your Gas Fireplace Not Turning On?
The 3rd type of fireplace vent is called a power vent aka powered vent. Power vent gas fireplaces use a blower fan in the vent to aid in the exhaust process. If that blower motor stops working for any reason, your gas fireplace will not turn on.
Fireplace Gas Valve Not Opening / Not Lighting Burners
As the name implies, the gas valve controls the flow of gas into your fireplace allowing the burner to light. Think about it like the valve you turn on to get water out of your garden hose. If the gas valve is broken it doesn’t allow gas to flow into your fireplace burner. A faulty gas valve is a common reason your gas fireplace is not turning on.
Gas Fireplace Not Turning On Because of Electrical Issues
Some gas fireplaces controls require electricity to operate. Others use a wall switch to send a signal to a millivolt gas valve. In either case any disruption in the electrical supply going to the fireplace could be the cause of a gas fireplace not turning on.
Dead Remote-Control Batteries
Most gas fireplace remote controls require two sets of batteries. The remote control typically requires AA, AAA, or a 9-Volt battery much like your television remote control. What many people don’t realize is the receiver unit inside the firebox also uses batteries.
If your gas fireplace is not turning on, try changing the batteries in both the handheld remote as well as the receiver.
You May Also Like: Gas Fireplace Remote Control Is Not Working
Fuel Delivery Issues
The most common gas fireplaces use either natural gas plumbed into the building or propane from a tank. Propane tanks come in many sizes and can even be buried in the ground.
When someone calls to schedule service and tells us their gas fireplace is not turning on, we ask which fuel it uses. Believe it or not, sometimes people remember they haven’t had their propane tank filled recently.
Natural gas is plumbed into the home. If your gas fireplace isn’t turning on, make sure the valve is on. Many people turn the gas to the fireplace off in the summer and forget to turn it back on. If the valve is on and your fireplace still won’t light, you may have air in the line. There’s also a small chance you have a rotted gas line preventing gas from making it to the valve. In either of these cases, you need to call a pro to inspect & repair the issue.
Gas Fireplace Not Turning on By Design
Many gas fireplaces are equipped with safety devices to prevent catastrophic failure when it detects something isn’t working correctly. There are many types of safety devices depending on the type of gas fireplace you have. Here are just a few examples:
- ODS (Oxygen Depletion Sensor) – an ODS is a safety device required on all vent free aka ventless fireplaces. Vent free fireplaces use the air in the room to provide the oxygen needed for combustion (the fire itself). If the ODS senses the oxygen in the room is below safe levels, it prevents the fireplace from operating.
- Damper Safety Switch – even if your damper is open, a faulty damper safety switch can be the cause of a gas fireplace not turning on. Over time these switches can become weak and fail to recognize if the damper is open or closed.
- Thermocouple & Thermopile – safety pilot valves use a thermocouple or thermopile to sense when the pilot is lit. I discuss this in greater length in the article, Gas Fireplace Won’t Stay Lit and included a link in the first sentence of this article.
Faulty Ignition System
A faulty ignition system is a common reason a gas fireplace won’t turn on. I discuss some of the reasons and a possible DIY fix in the Gas Fireplace Won’t Stay Lit article. There are other components of an ignition system and different types of ignition systems prone to failure. All of these require an experienced fireplace technician to diagnose and repair.
Don’t Live with a Gas Fireplace Not Turning On
In the almost 27 years since I founded Magic Touch Mechanical & The Fire Place, I’ve noticed a pattern in Phoenix. Many homeowners simply live with a non-working fireplace until they sell their home and are forced to repair it.
Don’t fix it for the next owner … fix it for yourself and enjoy it while you live there!
You may be surprised to learn that often the repairs needed for your gas fireplace aren’t too expensive. It could possibly even be as simple as some cleaning & maintenance to get your fireplace or fire pit working again.
All too often we hear, “I should’ve done this a long time ago,” from homeowners who went years without a working fireplace. Imagine all the cozy evenings they missed, and ambiance lost because they simply lived with it. If you live within 40 miles of Mesa, AZ., you’re already on the website of the highest rated fireplace repair service company in Phoenix.